Trials are always a last resort after you try everything else, whether you have a criminal case or a civil case. Litigation is time-consuming, stressful, and expensive, and smart people avoid it if they can.
Unfortunately, not all cases can be worked out, no matter how hard you try. Even if you and your spouse commit to cooperating during a settlement conference, you may still end up needing a court hearing.
Even couples who try hard to work out their problems, in the beginning, may end up fighting out their final issues in a courtroom.
Sometimes the legal issues make it impossible for couples to agree on a resolution because there are rules about child support, child custody, alimony/spousal maintenance in Arizona, attorney’s fees, and other issues that make it difficult for the individuals to agree.
Every divorce case is as different as the people going through it, and the Arizona divorce process seems confusing and even frightening for those who are unfamiliar with it.
6 Ways To Prepare for Your Divorce Trial
Great trial preparation is the key to getting through it. Once you spend the time getting ready, you will be familiar with the material issues.
That will help you to present your case more effectively, and it will allow you to be less stressed out while you get through the divorce process.
Step 1: Meet With Your Attorney
This should be your first step when dealing with any legal problem.
Your attorney will already be familiar with many of the issues you will be going through and that you will be going through in the near future, so you can get legal advice and guidance from the beginning of your case.
Work out a strategy with your family law attorney from the beginning and be willing to be flexible. Sometimes your idea of a big win in divorce court doesn’t really gain you anything material.
Your divorce lawyer will ask you important questions so you can be a full participant in planning your trial.
It is better to prepare your witness list, phone numbers, text messages, and other evidence as early as possible and decide if you need expert witnesses.
You have a unique position as far as knowing the opposition, and your input will be invaluable in the trial.
Step 2: Gather all your documents and paperwork.
The sooner you start, the sooner you will have all the documents you need.
You will need to provide documentation for every aspect of your financial life when preparing for the dissolution of your marriage.
Among the paperwork you should look for are:
- Tax returns
- Bank statements
- Retirement account statements
- Proof of your current income
- Documentation for your assets, such as stocks and bond, and CDs
- Mortgage statements
- Property taxes
- Loan documents
- Proof of debts, like credit card bills
- Utility bills
- Childcare statements
- A parenting plan
- Arizona prenuptial agreement, if there are any. As long as the prenuptial agreement meets certain conditions, the judge will accept the terms.
Arizona is a community property state, meaning that for Arizona divorce laws property division and debt division will be equitably divided between the separating spouses.
One of the jobs of the court, if you can’t make an agreement, will be to divide your assets and liabilities.
The court will have to decide what is community property and what is separate property before determining the value of both and then dividing up the property and debt.
Your attorney can teach you how to protect your inheritance from your spouse, too.
Your attorney can help you find the experts you need to calculate the value of your marital assets, enlisting the aid of financial experts and appraisers.
Without the assistance of a neutral third party, you may not get the benefit of the full value of your property.
Dividing up property can be very difficult; one common example is where one of the individuals wants to continue to live in the marital home, and the value of the property must still be split fairly.
Step 3: Get support
Most people become so focused on the divorce that they forget to meet their own physical and emotional needs.
You don’t have to make your friends choose sides, but it is important to ask them for their support during this troubling time. Make time to meet your friends and be honest, and use self-help resources if you need to.
Many people keep secrets during a marriage, keeping a false front, so their friends and family think they’re doing well even when they’re not.
Even abuse may be hidden, and it is often only when your relationship ends that you face the truth.
It can be especially difficult when divorcing a narcissist because a narcissist won’t be able to empathize with your pain and cause you emotional harm because of a sense of entitlement and an inability to understand your feelings.
Step 4: Don’t spend all your time and energy focused on the trial
Your divorce may be the single most significant event that happens in your adult life, besides natural events like births and deaths.
Remember the divorce itself is just a means to an end, and that your only purpose in getting divorced is to separate from your spouse so you can move on.
That doesn’t mean that you should focus on the trial to the exclusion of everything else.
Obsessing over a trial isn’t healthy, and the pressure can lead to physical effects, such as headaches, stomachaches, and poor sleep.
Keep exercising, going to the movies, playing with your children, and everything else you do for fun. When you feel too stressed out, take a break and go for a walk or take some time off.
Step 5: Keep your emotions in check
You can make bad decisions if you let your emotions control you during the dissolution proceedings.
Becoming overwrought only hurts you and keeps you from being fully there for your case. If you seem too angry or emotional, it can damage your credibility in front of the judge.
You also need to think about the future. Especially if you have children, you will be dealing with your ex in the future.
Among the top reasons for divorce, there are several that involve communication and emotions.
Many couples divorce because they got married for the wrong reasons, because they lost their individual identities, or because they didn’t have the same vision of success or interests.
Another big reason couples separate is financial issues, either that there isn’t enough money or the couple can’t agree on how to spend and/or earn money. Domestic violence is another big reason couples separate.
When your divorce is over, you will still be the same person, and understanding why you got divorced will help you stay calm and move on to the next stage of your life.
Step 6: Don’t give up on the idea of settling your case
You can make an agreement with your spouse all the way up until the time the judge makes a decision on the trial date. You can even stop during the trial and agree to terms.
That doesn’t mean that you should feel afraid of going to trial and agree to terms against your best interests, because your divorce attorney will back you up all the way.
Your attorney is your advocate and will fight for you if necessary.
Common Divorce Trial Questions To Be Prepared For
A divorce trial is the same as any other trial, in the sense that the family court judge will take evidence and then make a decision.
There may be an opening statement and closing argument, even if brief, from the lawyers.
One of the most important kinds of evidence during a divorce hearing is testimony from the parties themselves, and you should expect to spend some time on the stand answering questions.
Your attorney should be the main one asking questions of you during direct examination, and the judge will probably ask more questions for clarification.
Your spouse’s attorney will also get a chance to ask questions in a process called cross-examination.
There are a variety of different kinds of questions the judge might ask, such as:
- Basic background questions, like your name, husband’s name, children’s names, etc.
- Confirming that your marriage is irretrievably broken
- Meeting residency requirements
- Details about anything you and your spouse could agree on as part of a divorce agreement.
Even if an amicable divorce is impossible, you will still benefit from keeping the attitude that you aren’t really at war with your ex.
You can even get a legal separation in Arizona if you are not yet ready to fully end the marriage but want to go ahead and take care of all the issues, like child support and custody and division of assets.
If you are a victim of spousal abandonment, you have the same rights as if your spouse is present.
You may even go all the way through a family law trial, so the judge can make a decision on the issues, following the same court rules whether or not your spouse is present.
In the end, the judge will make the final divorce decree, based on either a decision after hearing evidence or on an agreement. Be as much a part of your case as if you were your own law firm.